Is OD Going Away?

Can an entire field go away?

Recently, at a meeting of senior HR professionals, we were discussing trends in HR. One trend that everyone agreed upon is that the field of organization development (OD) is changing.

For one thing, the field seems to be fracturing into specialities such as executive coaching and change management. The former is becoming dominated by external consultants. The latter is moving to IT.

Further, more and more employers are looking for HR generalists who can also do organization development, process improvement, and training.

The moderator's comment was: "OD has been absorbed by HR. Employers want broad-based generalists. Fewer people who can do more things."

The moderator then asked: "Do you think OD is going away?"

One senior HR leader commented: "Yes, within five years."

I shuddered at the thought.

Will OD as we know it go away? Should OD practitioners be re-tooling their skills set? Should OD students start thinking about a new major? A new career?

Or will OD metamorph into something else?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 11/18/06


I certainly hope OD doesn't go away. OD is an integral part of the change process and concepts like Lean Six Sigma dependent upon it.

I hope it more of a case of the OD Department going away rather than the field of OD. By this I think you may be seeing a shift (for the better) of how OD is being used. Rather than be a function separated from the rest of the business where the business leaders occasionally go in hopes of a quick fix solution I hope we are seeing a shift to the OD function being integrated with the business unit.

Change and OD are a continuous process and I hope we see the OD function being incorporated into the everyday process of how we run the business rather than as an afterthought.

What this means for the OD folks is that they have to get out of the office and into the trenches with the rest of the people. This may be a change for the OD folks as well as the business folks. But hey, you're in the change business right?
Terrence said…
Interesting point, Michael. Which triggers some additional questions, such as:

- Should OD look to uncouple (proactively divorce) itself from HR?

- ...and seek new joint ventures with IT? Operations? Sales? etc.?

In the spirit of the old saying "follow the money," perhaps OD should "follow the change" and go where the needs are greatest?
regina said…
Oh this is a great topic...and I want to chime in definitely on this...I have a post that I have been planning for a while called the new OD curriculum. I like Michael's comments. I feel similar and will say some more in an upcoming post...
Terrence said…
Hey Regina,
Good to hear from you again. Glad to hear that this topic has struck a chord with you. And I can hardly wait to read your thoughts on "the new OD curriculum." Now that is a title that a lot of OD people will be intrigued by.
Prasad Kurian said…
I feel that OD won't go away as the business need for OD deliverables remains strong (and, as far as I can see, it is bound to increase). However I feel that OD 'function' is moving towards a more 'distributed structure'.

This 'distributed structure' would involve developing OD capability in HR generalists and this structure/model is essential for ensuring that OD can make a significant contribution to the business. In order to make a significant impact on a complex (with a high degree of interlinkages) and rapidly evolving organization, multiple OD initiatives have to be carried out simultaneously. Also, the sensing of the business needs and the planning/implementation of the OD interventions have to be done quickly. A distributed/embedded OD structure is in a better position (as compared to a centralized OD structure) to meet these twin requirements of bandwidth and speed.
Brian Childs said…

Thanks for the comment on our blog. One reason for OD to maybe proactively divorce itself from HR is from the Change Management perspective. Is HR is a good change agent? A recent blog post by Luc Galoppin called "Don't Count on HR to Drive Change" got me thinking about this a bit.

Maybe we don't necessarily need an OD function, as much as OD people working within functions, like Prasad suggested. For instance, an IT or Marketing manager (not just HR people) should be schooled and knowledgeable in OD and also in their natural field. Perhaps that is how OD folks can get into the trenches as Michael suggested in his comment.


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